Talk about a game of two halves. For the first 30 minutes of Saturday’s Big Ten contest, No. 16 Michigan (5-1, 3-1 Big Ten) jumped out to a 28-0 lead on Illinois (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) before giving up a late score before halftime. It seemed harmless at first, but the Illini went on to score 18 more points on Michigan to push the Wolverines on the brink of a catastrophic loss. Fortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines responded and put the game away in the fourth quarter for a 42-25 road victory.
If there was a reason for concern for Jim Harbaugh and his program, it may have been the stale third-quarter performance. Michigan picked up just 11 yards in the third quarter and was out-gained 114-11. Illinois also chipped away at what was once a 28-0 lead by closing the gap to 28-17 heading to the fourth quarter. All of this, mind you, with Illinois playing with a backup quarterback in Matt Robinson. Former Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters was ruled out for the game by the Illini.
Shea Patterson and Donovan Peoples-Jones connected for a short touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter to create some breathing room after the Illini made it a three-point game. The defense of the Wolverines then forced a turnover on the first play of the ensuing possession by Illinois. Michigan later put the game away for good by forcing another fourth-quarter fumble by the Illini at the Illinois one-yard line. Patterson picked up the short touchdown on the next play to create the 42-25 advantage.
Patterson completed half of his 22 pass attempts for 194 yards and three touchdowns as part of a four total-touchdown afternoon. Zach Charbonnet led the Michigan running game with 116 of the team’s 251 rushing yards.
Michigan will be back on the road next week for a primetime showdown with No. 10 Penn State. The Nittany Lions are in action tonight at Iowa and hope to bring their undefeated record home with them for a revenge game against the Wolverines. the last three meetings in this series have been dominating victories by the home team. Things won’t get any easier for Illinois next week. The Illini host No. 8 Wisconsin next week. The Badgers have won nine straight in the series and 13 of the previous 14 meetings since 2003.